Scoring Points With Ferguson

December 1, 2014 at 5:15 am 1 comment


Credit:  The New York Times

Credit: The New York Times

One week. That’s how long it’s been since a grand jury did not find enough probable cause to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Following the grand jury’s decision, demonstrations were staged nationwide to protest the decision. Some were peaceful. Some were not. Some demonstrations were little more than thinly veiled excuses for looting rampages.

As I have been following this story over these past few months, I have been grieved by how the debate over Ferguson has unfolded. Everyone, it seems, has a particular point to make. Some are concerned for Officer Wilson. Why do so many refuse to believe a grand jury’s findings in spite of some pretty clear facts? Others are concerned with larger issues of racism. What has happened with Michael Brown, many say, is emblematic of the mistrust that the African-American community has with law enforcement, many times with good reason. Still others are concerned with widespread crime and violence within the African-American community. Generations of young black men have destroyed themselves through bad choices.

Here’s what bothers me about all of these points. They’re all, in some sense, legitimate. If Officer Wilson was only doing his best in a really bad situation, he should not be offered to protestors as a sacrificial lamb. The injustice of racism is not going to be solved or salved by more injustice against an officer. At the same time, we do have a problem with racism in this country. And we need to admit that. Indeed, it has choked me up to read personal stories of young black men describing what they have had to endure growing up. Take, for instance, this story. And this story isn’t from some bygone early 60’s era. Derek Minor was born in 1984. At the same time, widespread crime and violence within the African-American community – and in any community, for that matter – also needs to be addressed. Such sin is not always somebody else’s fault.  Sometimes, the blame rests at our feet.

All of these points are, in some sense, legitimate. But all of them also have the potential, in some sense, to render themselves illegitimate. Here’s why. Far too often, when we try to make one of these particular points, we refuse to acknowledge that another person trying to make another one of these points actually has a point. Those who are trying to defend Officer Wilson can sometimes refuse to acknowledge larger issues of racism. Those who are concerned with the larger issue of racism can sometimes refuse to admit that Officer Wilson may have just been doing his job. Those who are concerned with problems within the black community can sometimes refuse to acknowledge that there may be things outside the black community that need to change as well. But when we become so obsessed with making our point that we fail to acknowledge someone else’s point, we damage the very point we’re trying to make.

So allow me to add my point to these many other points: We need to stop trying only to make our point and start listening to the points of others and acknowledge that others may, in fact, have a point. In other words, we need to start having constructive dialogue and stop trying to merely win a debate.

I’m wondering when and if and when we will ever be able to admit that situations such as these are much more nuanced and complex than a single point can ever make them. And I’m wondering if and when we will ever be able to stop making points and start having generative conversations. Because if we’re only interested in winning a point, we may just lose the truth.

Just look at Ferguson.

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Everyday Thankfulness Mirror, Mirror On The Wall…

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Adola Stocker  |  December 2, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Thank you for this blog.

    Reply

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